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7 ideas for cross-promotion with other small businesses

With shrinking budgets for small businesses, cross-promotion is an age old method professionals use to spread word about their company. There are 7 methods that can expand your reach ranging from print to web cross-promotion, many at no cost at all.

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Spreading word about your business

Getting the word out about your small business takes a lot of work. You start out by enlisting the help of close friends, family members, and current and previous business associates. But soon that isn’t enough to get you to your end goal—a solid professional reputation and an increased profit. While there are thousands of ways to advertise your business, there are often monetary constraints for small business pros. Even with these constraints and limitations, small businesses can effectively market their brands through cross-promotion with other, complementary small businesses.

Print collateral

Display print collateral – One of the simplest ways to cross-promote is by displaying or distributing print collateral—brochures, calendars, business cards, and flyers—in a waiting room, next to the cash register, or mailed with statements, invoices, or business correspondence. When you’ve found the right business—or several businesses—to pair with, trade printed material. This will ensure that your business is made visible to potential customers, customers that would ultimately benefit from your products or services. If you’re looking for a low-friction way of cross-promoting your brand, this is it.

Events

Co-sponsor an event – This will allow you to cut your event costs in half, and it ensures you get the other company’s audience and customers in attendance, which will only benefit your company’s marketing efforts and outreach. Depending on the nature of your business, you can choose to hold a local, national, or even online event geared toward your target audience. Whichever you choose, make sure all companies with which you’re cross-promoting have equal visibility. This will strengthen your professional relationships now so they can still be of use to you in the future.

Incentives

Start a referral program – Offer discounts or rewards for those customers who refer business to your partner’s store and vice versa. This is a fantastic way to create a network of consumers. Remember, again, this only works if you cross-promote a complementary business rather than a competing one. The latter is rarely a good idea. A referral program will encourage your customers to spread the word about your business and your cross-promotion partner’s business. Everyone benefits.

Mailers

Swap mailing lists – While this effort obviously gives you even more potential customers, the ethics of such an act continues to be debated. After all, haven’t we all been annoyed when we’ve discovered a company has sold or traded our information? Instead of swapping all the information on your mailing lists, you can provide your current customers and clients the option of being contacted by a partner or affiliate. Alternatively, featuring a peripheral business to yours on mailers to your clients while being featured on mailers to their clients is a common method for this type of swap. This will keep your professional reputation unsoiled and give you the opportunity to lengthen your own mailing list.

Web efforts

Trade online content – While this type of cross-promotion requires a lot of valuable time in creating the content, it’s one of the most beneficial ways to market your brand on a small budget—or even if you have a large budget, for that matter. Write a guest blog post, general website content, or informative, on-topic articles. This online content can help establish your reputation as being knowledgeable in your field or industry. If you can write content that is informative and valuable, you’ll have a stream of users checking out your site, too. The challenge here is in finding like partners that would mutually benefit.

Seminars

Offer a workshop or educational class – You and your cross-promotion partner can hold an educational workshop or class that’s related to your industry. Each of you—or a representative of your business—should speak or teach a class, but also include other guest speakers or teachers. The more valuable information you provide to the attendees, the more in-demand your workshop or class will be. Having as many influential “experts” involved will only increase the hype of your educational event.

Co-office

Share valuable office space – Just as tax accountants temporarily take up residence in major grocery stores during tax season, consider sharing valuable office space with your partner, and vice versa. It can be a small office, booth, or even right outside the front door. Hand out brochures, business cards, and be available to answer questions or to pass out free samples. This method can be more effective than just having your partner display your print collateral, because your potential customers can put a face to a brand, which makes your business more relatable and personable. It doesn’t matter if you set up one of your employees there permanently or you only use some space a few times a month, this is a great way to network with your target audience.

Cross-promotion is an easy way to market your business directly to the right consumers and while sticking to your marketing budget. Partnering with a complementary business expands your professional outreach, betters your reputation in your industry, and puts you in contact with the right people at the right time. Consider your cross-promotion options carefully and be selective about potential partners, as the wrong partner can have as much of an impact on your business as the right one.

The American Genius Staff Writer: Charlene Jimenez earned her Master's Degree in Arts and Culture with a Creative Writing concentration from the University of Denver after earning her Bachelor's Degree in English from Brigham Young University in Idaho. Jimenez's column is dedicated to business and technology tips, trends and best practices for entrepreneurs and small business professionals.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Steve Martin

    March 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    All great, inexpensive ideas for small business owners! Great article!

  2. Maria Eves

    April 16, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    7 ideas for cross-promotion with other small businesses hey thanks for that Charlene…really truly a great insight to the many ways..

  3. Pingback: 3 Inexpensive Marketing Ideas to Reach A Large Local Audience

  4. Pingback: Offices to let near Brinnington - Pear Mill

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Business Marketing

Ghost Reply has us asking: Should you shame a recruiter who ghosted you?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Ghost Reply will send an anonymous “kind reminder” to recruiters who ghost job candidates, but is the sweet taste of temporary catharsis worth it?

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Stressed woman at a laptop with hands on head, considering if she should send a Ghost Reply.

People hate to get “ghosted” in any situation, personal or professional. But for job seekers who may already be struggling with self-esteem, it can be particularly devastating. Ghost Reply is a new online service that will help you compose and send an email nudge to the ghoster, sending a “kind reminder” telling them how unprofessional it is to leave someone hanging like that.

Ghost Reply wants to help you reach catharsis in all of this stressful mess of finding a job. Almost all of the problems and feelings are compounded by this confounded pandemic that has decimated areas of the workforce and taken jobs and threatened people’s financial security. It is understandable to want to lash out at those in power, and sending a Ghost Reply email to the recruiter or HR person may make you feel better in the short term.

In the long run, though, will it solve anything? Ghost Reply suggests it may make the HR person or recruiter reevaluate their hiring processes, indicating this type of email may help them see the error of their ways and start replying to all potential candidates. If it helps them reassess and be more considerate in the future and helps you find closure in the application/interview process, that would be the ideal outcome on all fronts. It is not likely this will happen, though.

The Ghost Reply sample email has the subject line “You have a message from a candidate!” Then it begins, “Hi, (name), You’re receiving this email because a past candidate feels like you ghosted them unfairly.” It then has a space for said candidate to add on any personal notes regarding the recruiter or process while remaining anonymous.

I get it. It’s upsetting to have someone disappear after you’ve spent time and energy applying, possibly even interviewing, only to hear nothing but crickets back from the recruiter or HR person you interacted with. It’s happened to me more than once, and it’s no bueno. We all want to be seen. We all want to be valued. Ghosting is hurtful. The frustration and disappointment, even anger, that you feel is certainly relatable. According to several sources, being ghosted after applying for a job is one of the top complaints from job seekers on the market today.

Will an anonymous, passive-aggressive email achieve your end? Will the chastened company representative suddenly have a lightbulb go off over their heads, creating a wave of change in company policy? I don’t see it. The first sentence of the sample email, in fact, is not going to be well received by HR.

When you start talking about what’s “unfair,” most HR people will tune out immediately. That kind of language in itself is unprofessional and is a red flag to many people. Once you work at a company and know its culture and have built relationships, then, maybe, just maybe, can you start talking about your work-related feelings. I believe in talking about our feelings, but rarely is a work scenario the best place to do so (I speak from experience). Calling it unprofessional is better, less about you and more about the other person’s behavior.

However, it’s unclear how productive Ghost Reply actually is. Or how anonymous, frankly. By process of deduction, the recipient of the email may be able to figure out who sent it, if it even makes it through the company’s spam filters. Even if they cannot pinpoint the exact person, it may cast doubts on several applicants or leave a bad taste in the recruiter’s mouth. It sounds like sour grapes, which is never a good thing.

There may be any number of reasons you didn’t get the job offer or interview, and they may or may not have something to do with you. Recruiters answer your burning questions, including why you may have been ghosted in this recent article in The American Genius.

Ultimately, you will never know why they ghosted you. If it makes you feel better or at least see the issue from both sides, the amount of job candidates ghosting recruiters after applying and even interviewing is equally high. Some people simply either have awful time management skills or awful manners, and at the end of the day, there’s not much you can do about that.

Focus on your own survival while job hunting, instead of these disappointing moments or the person who ghosts you. It will serve you better in the long run than some anonymous revenge email. There are other ways to deal with your frustration and anger when you do get ghosted, though. Try the classic punching your pillow. Try taking a walk around the block. If it helps to put your frustration into words, and it very well may, then do so. Write it on a piece of paper, then burn it. Or type it all in an email and delete it. For your own sake, do NOT put their email address in the “To” line, lest you accidentally hit “Send.”

The sooner you can let it go, the sooner you can move on to finding a better job fit for you.

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Business Marketing

Free shipping is everywhere… how can small businesses keep up?

[BUSINESS MARKETING] Would you rather pay less but still pay for shipping, or pay more with free shipping? They may cost the same, but one appeals more than the other.

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Person standing over pacakge, sealing with masking tape.

When it comes to competing with huge corporations like Amazon, there are plenty of hurdles that smaller businesses have to cross. Corporations can (and do) undercut the competition, not to mention garner a much larger marketing reach than most small businesses could ever dream of achieving. But this time, we want to focus on something that most people have probably chosen recently: Free shipping.

How important is free shipping to consumers? Well, in a 2018 survey, Internet Retailer discovered that over 50% of respondents said that free shipping was the most important part of online shopping. In fact, when given a choice between fast or costless shipping, a whopping 88% of those surveyed chose the latter option.

Part of this has to do with the fact that shipping costs are often perceived as additional fees, not unlike taxes or a processing fee. In fact, according to Ravi Dhar, director of Yale’s Center for Customer Insights, if it’s between a discounted item with a shipping fee or a marked up item with free shipping, individuals are more likely to choose the latter – even if both options cost exactly the same amount.

If you’re interested in learning more, Dhar refers to the economic principle of “pain of paying,” but the short answer is simply that humans are weird.

So, how do you recapture the business of an audience that’s obsessed with free shipping?

The knee jerk reaction is to simply provide better products that the competition. And sure, that works… to some extent. Unfortunately, in a world where algorithms can have a large effect on business, making quality products might not always cut it. For instance, Etsy recently implemented a change in algorithm to prioritize sellers that offer free shipping.

Another solution is to eat the costs and offer free shipping, but unless that creates a massive increase in products sold, you’re going to end up with lower profits. This might work if it’s between lower profits and none, but it’s certainly not ideal. That’s why many sellers have started to include shipping prices in the product’s overall price – instead of a $20 necklace with $5 shipping, a seller would offer a $25 necklace with free shipping.

This is a tactic that the big businesses use and it works. If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, right?

That said, not everyone can join in. Maybe, for instance, a product is too big to reasonably merge shipping and product prices. If, for whatever reason, you can’t join in, it’s also worth finding a niche audience and pushing a marketing campaign. What do you offer that might be more attractive than the alluring free shipping? Are you eco-friendly? Do you provide handmade goods? Whatever it is that makes your business special, capitalize on it.

Finally, if you’re feeling down about the free shipping predicament, remember that corporations have access to other tricks. Amazon’s “free” prime shipping comes at an annual cost. Wal-Mart can take a hit when item pricing doesn’t work out. Even if your business isn’t doing as well as you hoped, take heart: You’re facing giants.

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Business Marketing

How many hours of the work week are actually efficient?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Working more for that paycheck, more hours each week, on the weekends, on holidays can actually hurt productivity. So don’t do that, stay efficient.

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Clock pointed to 5:50 on a plain white wall, well tracked during the week.

Social media is always flooded with promises to get in shape, eat healthier and… hustle?

In hustle culture, it seems as though there’s no such thing as too much work. Nights, weekends and holidays are really just more time to be pushing towards your dreams and hobbies are just side hustles waiting to be monetized. Plus, with freelancing on the rise, there really is nothing stopping someone from making the most out of their 24 hours.

Hustle culture will have you believe that a full-time job isn’t enough. Is that true?

Although it’s a bit outdated, Gallup’s 2014 report on full-time US workers gives us an alarming glimpse into the effects of the hustle. For starters, 50% of full-time workers reported working over 40 hours a week – in fact, the average weekly hours for salaried employees was up to 49 hours.

So, what’s the deal with 40 hours anyway? The 40 hour work-week actually started with labor rights activists in the 1800s pushing for an 8 hour workday. In 1817, Robert Owen, a Welsh activist, reasoned this workday provided: “eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest.”

If you do the math, that’s a whopping 66% of the day devoted to personal needs, rather than labor!

Of course, it’s only natural to be skeptical of logic from two centuries ago coloring the way we do business in the 21st century. For starters, there’s plenty of labor to be done outside of the labor you’re paid to do. Meal prep, house cleaning, child care… that’s all work that needs to be done. It’s also all work that some of your favorite influencers are paying to get done while they pursue the “hustle.” For the average human, that would all be additional work to fall in the ‘recreation’ category.

But I digress. Is 40 hours a week really enough in the modern age? After all, average hours in the United States have increased.

Well… probably not. In fact, when hours are reduced (France, for instance, limited maximum hours to 35 hours a week, instead of 40), workers are not only more likely to be healthier and happier, but more efficient and less likely to miss work!

So, instead of following through with the goal to work more this year, maybe consider slowing the hustle. It might actually be more effective in the long run!

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